The loneliness of Black Lives Matter Summer
Unless you were living under a rock, I’m sure you were aware of the protest culminating in 2020. Protest stemming from the stubbornness of racial inequality, and the lack of progress we have made. Racial inequality has become a systemic issue, one that had national attention because of the lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter Movement. I saw the calls for racial justice met with not just resistance but aggression from close friends, I said little in the beginning thinking it would pass, I was wrong. From the moment Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, and their champion Trump inserted himself it went bad. Trump entering the conversation on race shifted it from a dialogue to a debate. It became toxic, not only did He attack Kaep but the idea there was racial inequality. Trump doing that polarized the issue. His entering hardened the responses from some of my closest friends. They like their champion tried to cloak it up as law, and order but after what happened on January 6th, at the capitol we know that it wasn’t about law or order. People just didn’t want to address what was before their eyes, systemic inequality. Law enforcement employment, housing, healthcare, income, and wealth equality all had systemic issues. When policing came up they would mention cases like Tony Timpa. Tony’s case is egregious, and I’d tell them that doesn’t take away from the fact that minorities are more often the victims of an overaggressive police state. I’d cite information on stop and frisks which showed 8/10 stops were minorities, and 9/10 stops were of innocent people. I’d show that police were about 3.6 times more likely to use force against minorities. I’d show any data to prove the point and the result was the same. My friends would mock, ridicule, or otherwise dismiss my points. Most of the time I just would chalk it up as not worth a fight, but as the summer raged on it just kept continuing. I began to see their responses less sympathetically, as I watched a basketball game at a bar, when we could do that, they would complain. Their complaints were that social justice was ruining the sport. Why is LeBron so stuck on this? Why are they ruining the sport? I’d again push back because we still have Black unemployment double that of whites in the best of times, the racial wealth gap growing, income disparities continuing, worse healthcare outcomes, we have issues that ought to be addressed and he is not only advocating for those of us who can’t but giving back. They would dismiss me as not knowing what I was talking about or say well you seem to be fine that disproves white privilege. This ignores how hard I had to work to get even here. They didn’t want to hear it, hear that for many minorities you can’t just be average you have to be better than extraordinary to just scrape by, that’s why so many Black athletes are getting into social justice. Anyways as these conversations kept going I found myself more isolated, they kept pressing me, and it got uncomfortable. My race became salient in a way it hadn’t before. They began to associate me with everything Black Lives Matter Protestors did, and because of the media diet they had, they only saw the bad. This was wearing on our friendship, it began to become untenable. They began othering me, I was no longer the one good one which I’d often hear they would say about me when I wasn’t around. I was just like the rest. For a time it hurt but it was for the best to loosen my association with them. This summer showed me, and many others we have a long way to go on racial equality, and I want to be a part of it. We need to reset the dialogue, Biden is doing a decent job of that by the way. I’ve called my representatives about issues to improve racial equality. Not just criminal justice reform bills, I talked about increasing STEM funding in minority areas, bringing in more employment opportunities, mentorship programs, small business funding, things that improve the wellbeing and bridge the racial wealth gap. I doubled my volunteering for the NAACP focusing more on voter registration, education, and engagement. I found things that mattered and got involved because we all have a responsibility to do something, whether you are marching, donating, or just having the conversation with someone we all need to do our part.